Patient and Retinal Region-specific iPSC-derived RPE Models to Study AMD
MentorKapil Bharti, PhD
We aim to understand the differential sensitivity of central and peripheral retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) to age-related macular degeneration. The first goal of this project is to recreate and functionally validate the central and peripheral RPE subpopulations in a dish using patient-specific stem cells. We will identify the molecular and physiological differences between the two subpopulations. The second goal is to discover signaling pathways that make the central RPE more vulnerable to AMD as compared to the peripheral RPE.
AMD affects mainly the central region of the retina and the RPE. Currently, there is no cell culture model to study the resilience of peripheral RPE cells or the sensitivity of central RPE cells in AMD. Generating the first cellular model of central and peripheral RPE is the most innovative aspect of this proposal. The central and peripheral RPE models will be easily reproducible by other researchers in the field, who will use them to address specific questions about AMD and other retinal degenerative diseases. The model will also help us understand what makes central RPE more vulnerable than peripheral RPE. All this will eventually translate in the development of specific drugs to prevent vision loss caused by AMD.